We know that Baum builds some of the best custom bikes we've had a chance to ride or own, far beyond their eminence. We have what we like to call anecdotally empirical data backing us up. We've ridden about 8,000km this year on 25 different test bikes, not counting our own Baum bicycles. That's more than a lot of magazine test editors, both in time and mileage (kilometerage?). Long story short, after all that - after every one of those test bikes, we still yearn to be back on our own Baums after the novelty of something new fades. They're our trustworthy titanium security blankets. So, when someone comes to us and really connects with our passion/experience face-to-face, then still doubts what we say, we view it as something of a challenge, instead of becoming offended. When we bond at that level, we view them as a kindred spirit - another skeptic itching to be proven wrong. We view their heresy as a summit to be conquered, not an affront to the dogma of Above Category. And we set to work convincing them. Ryan was one of those skeptics. He'd initially visited AC looking for a jersey. It was a hard sell. We didn't know if he'd be back. Then, he was, often. Eventually, he let us know that he was looking for what he'd termed a "metal bike" to replace his aging straight-gauge Seven, his "rain bike". We'll admit - we didn't take him very seriously at first, but still dispensed everything we knew at the time. Life is a learning process, or so we're told, and educating each other is a wonderful gift we can give. After all, he'd questioned everything we said. But he was back, week after week, with more questions (and enthusiasm). We spent most of the time talking about all things bike and training, and we became friends with Ryan. He inched towards getting a new bike, ever so slowly, until one day he said to us "Screw it...I'm getting a Baum."
Still, after so much prodding, so much inquiry, we wanted Ryan to be absolutely certain he'd made the right choice, and did something we don't normally offer with a custom Baum: A demo. It just so happened that one of our own personal Baum Correttos had arrived - and after taking the measurements from his "sunny day bike" (A Parlee Z5), we determined that, with a bit more drop, he'd fit the Corretto almost perfectly. "If the shoe fits," as they say, and we setup Ryan on the bike for a quick test spin on our local lunch loop. While we knew in our guts that he'd like the bike, we weren't quite expecting his reaction as he rolled back through the front door at Above Category, cackling with glee. "Very few things can make you feel like a kid, and your bike did it for me, as everyone there when I came back can attest", he later said to us. Validation.
In the end, Ryan, a San Francisco local, ended up with a Corretto, which has gone from simply "rain bike replacement" to "both bike replacement", taking over in the batting order from both his Seven and his Parlee. He rides a lot (mostly in West Marin, he tells us), more than most, even with a family and full-time career. Why? In his words, "Escape and adventure. My life—like many people—is fairly constrained. There is work; there is family; and there is all of the usual things that we do day-to-day. Riding my bike is an escape. For those hours, it's about you, and as you work harder-and-harder, other thoughts fade. You don’t think about your to-dos, your mistakes, or anything other than turning the cranks. And in there—and in what you can do on a bike—is the adventure that I used to seek and fulfil with crazy travel trips or other silliness."
Yeah, Ryan's grown up a little, and while his bike could be viewed as an extension of that, it's also an expression of his vibrance, his youth. It's bright red. And orange. And loud. For a quiet guy who's always who's always gone with black bikes whenever possible, it's a really intriguing venue for self-expression: "I also ruled out black – my default choice for a bike because, well, it's been my default choice and the color of my Z5 and my mountain bike."
In the end, was the meeting of Ryan and his Baum fate? Maybe. We'd like to think that we helped, but something tells us he got there all on his own.